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Procedures: a summary for current graduate students

Graduate Student Procedures: an overview

This page contains brief summaries of common graduate student procedures. For detailed information about Master’s and PhD program plans, committees, and degree requirements, please see the CSE Graduate Handbook . Last updated May 2015.

MS Procedures

PhD Procedures

General Procedures

MS Procedures

Request Transfer Credits

See here in the Graduate Handbook for more information on requesting transfer credits to apply to your MS program in computer science at MSU. To request a transfer, you need to email the Graduate Director and Graduate Secretary a credit transfer request. This email should include an electronic (unofficial ok) copy of your relevant transcript, detailed course syllabi (translated into English if not in English) specifying what content was covered, what textbook (if any) was used, and a description of the assignments that you carried out. This request should be made by the middle of your first semester of Masters study. Please note that the request may be denied even if it meets all university requirements. That is, you should not assume that transfer credit will be granted until it is officially granted.

Create an MS program plan

By the end of your second academic year semester of graduate study, consult with your advisor to form a Master’s program plan . Submit your plan using the Graduate Reporting System. While you have until the end of your second semester, you are encouraged to do this as soon as possible. Note that the program plan can be easily changed.

Revising an MS program plan

Add and delete courses to your current plan using the Graduate Reporting System. You must change your program plan before adding or deleting any course in which you have received a grade. If you fail to do so, you must email the Graduate Director and Graduate Secretary to ask for a waiver to allow you to modify your MS program plan as requested.

Form a committee (MS Thesis option only)

Master’s students do not form a guidance committee unless they are doing a Thesis option. Once students are ready to enroll in thesis credits, they are then required to form a guidance committee in consultation with your advisor. You can request an override to enroll in CSE 899 using the new override request system. See the CSE Graduate Handbook for more information.

Changing MS Advisor

Consult with your current advisor and also the graduate director. When the change is approved, send formal notification to the graduate secretary.

Preparing for Graduation

Apply for graduation via the MSU Registrar's office. You must apply within the first week of the semester you intend to graduate to have your name included in the commencement program announcement. In your final semester, you may enroll for fewer credits than normal if you only need fewer credits to fulfill your graduation requirements.

PhD Procedures

PhD course waiver request

Our PhD program requires 30 credits of graduate level coursework. If you enter the PhD program with an MS degree, the department can waive up to 24 credits from the 30 credit requirement based upon coursework you completed for your MS degree. Note that such courses will NOT appear on your PhD program plan.

To apply for the waived credits, you must bring the following with you when you arrive at MSU (alternatively, you can send the following materials ahead of time to your advisor for earlier processing). These materials must be translated into English if they are not originally in English.

  1. A transcript.
  2. Course syllabi that includes a detailed description of topics covered, assigned textbooks, and assignments.

You will then supply these documents to your graduate advisor who will then prepare a proposal to be sent to the Graduate Director who will determine how many credits may be waived. This proposal should be submitted to the Graduate Director within your first five weeks in the PhD program. If you disagree with the decision made by the Graduate Director, you may appeal to the Graduate Studies and Research Committee. 

The intent is that any course which corresponds to a graduate level course at MSU is eligible for a credit waiver. In some cases, courses taken as part of an MS program may contain mateiral that corresponds to an undergraduate level course at MSU and thus would not be eligible for a credit waiver. Also, graduate level courses taken as part of an undergraduate program are also not eligible for a waiver.

Form a Guidance Committee

PhD students must form a PhD guidance committee no later than the third semester of doctoral study, or within two semesters beyond the master's degree or its equivalent. The committee form is filed together with the PhD program plan using GradPlan.

Non-Regular Faculty Members on Guidance Committees

People who are not MSU tenure stream faculty may serve as guidance committee members provided the number of such persons does not exceed the number of regular faculty. An application for approving such people to serve on a committee must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. The process for requesting such an approval is described here. If the person in question is a tenure stream faculty in another major university, we often just need the nomination letter and CV.

Create a PhD Program Plan

Within one semester of forming the PhD Guidance Committee, PhD students should submit a PhD program plan using GradPlan in consultation with their advisor and guidance committee. If you entered with an MS degree and were able to waive some of the 30 required credits from your PhD program plan, do NOT include the waived credits as part of your official PhD program plan. They are not officially part of your PhD program plan but are simply waived from the 30 required credits. You must include information about these waived courses in an additional notes section in GradPlan. You can consult the GradPlan Student guide located on the following page: GradPlan for more information about Grad Plan.

Changing Phd Advisor

If you wish to change your PhD advisor, you may discuss this privately with the Graduate Director at any time. The Graduate Director will maintain confidentiality and not discuss this with anyone else until you give the Graduate Director permission to do so. If you know you must change advisor but do not have a new advisor lined up, the Graduate Director may serve as a placeholder until you find a permanent PhD advisor. When you are ready to officially change PhD advisor (possibly to the Graduate Director as a placeholder), send an email to the Graduate Secretary, Graduate Director, your old advisor, and your new advisor informing them of the official change.

Revising a PhD program plan

Add and delete courses to your current plan using Grad Plan. Note that you must change your program plan before adding or deleting any course in which you have received a grade. If you fail to do so, you must email the Graduate Director and Graduate Secretary to ask for a waiver to allow you to modify your PhD program plan as requested.

Changing your Guidance Committee

To change your guidance committee, use GradPlan.

PhD Qualifying Examination

Information about the PhD Qualifying Examination is located here. This is typically completed some time in your second year. You may be asked to provide a research statement to help create your examination.

Comprehensive examination

Information about the PhD Comprehensive Examination is located here. This examination should be completed within two years of completing the qualifying examination and must be completed within five years of entering the PhD program. One benefit to completing the comprehensive examination early is that you can register for just 1 credit and be counted as a full time graduate student. You also can register for a special no-fringe RA over summer where you are not charged for tuition or fringes but still register for 1 credit.

Enroll in CSE 999

You must complete 24 credits of CSE 999 before you graduate. There now is a limit of 36 credits of CSE 999 that you can take. Please plan carefully given your need to get 24 but also the maximum of 36. Each spring, you should fill out the CSE 999 request form located here.

If you reach a point where you wish to exceed the maximum of 36 credits of CSE 999, you must submit an override request to the Registrar's Office. To do so, access the Request for RNR Override" at the Registrar's Online Forms Menu here.

Non Fringe Research Assistantship

PhD students who are post-comps can be supported during the summer with no tuition benefit (only stipend) research assistantships. The RA will actually provide 1 credit of tuition and the student must enroll for exactly 1 credit that summer. More details are here including an FAQ.

Preparing for Graduation

Apply for graduation via the MSU Registrar's office. You must apply within the first week of the semester you intend to graduate to have your name included in the commencement program announcement. You must be registered for at least 1 credit in the semester when you give your Final Oral Examination or PhD defense. Typically, you should register for only 1 credit unless you need extra credits (the department or your advisor can request a tuition refund if you register for only 1 credit). Two weeks before your final oral examination, you must send your Guidance Committee a draft copy of your dissertation. Please note you must also include the supplemental document describing information about multi-authored papers. You must also submit the doctoral candidate information form two weeks prior to your final oral examination. You must satisfy all the requirements for dissertation submission. Finally, you should complete some graduation surveys administered by MSU and CSE (log in to MSU google apps here if you are unable to use the CSE survey link).

General Procedures

Responsible Conduct of Research Training

All graduate students are required to complete responsible conduct of research training every year. Full details are available here

Annual Progress Report and Evaluation

All graduate students are required to complete an annual progress report each year. This will be used by your advisor in preparing your required annual evaluation. Full details are available here. Please note that while the college may not require MS students to complete the annual report, CSE does require all MS students to complete the annual report.

Request Keys

Your advisor must send an e-mail request to the key secretary. When the key is ready, the key secretary will send you an email. You may then go to the CSE main office and pick it up. Return the key prior to graduation to avoid having a hold placed on your degree. You can also request building access using your student ID card. Again, your advisor must send an email request to the key secretary requesting this access.

Request Travel Funds

There are a few places you can request travel funds from on campus. One is COGS. See the COGS Conference Award.

You can also request funding from the department, college, and Graduate School. If you are traveling internationally, the Office of International Studies and Programs may also provide matching funds. Most sources will provide funding one time during your graduate student career. To request this funding, complete the following PDF form and submit the completed form to the graduate secretary who will then route as appropriate. Your advisor typically must provide some funds in order to receive matching funds from the department and college.

Travel request form.

Note that you must submit a brief letter that indicates the following:

  • You are registered in the semester funding will be awarded
  • Name of the conference or professional meeting
  • The title of the research to be presented and a list of authors
    •  You must be presenting author
  • The date and location of the meeting
  • A break-down of the costs of the trip

Note that this travel funding will be awarded in the form of a fellowship. If you have Stafford or other needs-based loans/aid, the amount of your award may cause a reduction of your loan(s) or other financial aid. If you know that this is your situation, please provide a copy of your receipts as soon as possible. We can work with the Office of Financial Aid to try to make sure your loan/aid amount will not be affected. 

Travel Procedures

Pre-Travel Authorization Form

Obtain the Pre-Travel Authorization from here or the department office as soon as you know you will be traveling. This must be done

  • Even if you are only traveling a short distance within the state
  • Regardless of who pays for travel (grants, MSU account, agency account)
  • As soon as possible to allow time to process your request
  • For your own protection in the event of an accident or injury
  • To allow you to be reimbursed for authorized expenses

Your advisor must sign the travel authorization form. Submit travel authorization forms to the travel secretary no later than one week prior to travel.

Obtain an account number from your advisor. It is good to talk with the travel secretary about travel regulations before you book flights, hotels, etc...

International Travel

If you are flying internationally see the travel secretary prior to booking any flights! The travel secretary will ensure you are registered in the MSU Global Travel Registry which will provide you with important pre-departure information and allow MSU to provide you with emergency services if necessary.

Students traveling abroad should visit the Graduate School Travel Page before their trip. There is useful information including international medical insurance and evacuation coverage which is provided at no cost to you when traveling on university business or as part of official MSU programs. When students appointed as TAs or RAs travel outside the U.S. to conduct required thesis or dissertation research or to collaborate with investigators conducting research abroad, the department or research grant supporting the work will be required to pay for all needed vaccinations and or medications (e.g., anti-malarials) as determined by the MSU Travel Clinic. Students may include those costs in applications for funds from the Research Enhancement or Travel Grant programs administered by the Graduate School.


Save all receipts and submit them as soon as you return from traveling. Receipts include all documentation for transportation (airfare, car rental, bus, taxi, etc.), lodging, meals, and other authorized expenses.